Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recycle Your Exhast

Something that's really cool and, if not perfected in the next few years, something I'd be very interested in getting a piece of the action is what researchers at Georgia Tech announced today. Although a VERY long way away from any meaningful goal, the team of researchers announced that they would attempt to engineer a system for carbon capture and recycling in small stationary systems. What this means is that they want to trap the carbon dioxide released from a car when burning gasoline or ethanol and then use a catalyst to generate hydrogen that can be used as a secondary system to power the engine. The economics and feasibility of this are still so far off that this type of idea is probably only kicked around in Popular Science type areas, but the idea is very cool. In this study, the engineers envision a removable system for carbon capture that can be returned to a central location for further processing of the hydrocarbons (like a reverse gas station). What would be really cool is if a special processing unit could be built in the car with a mix of methane and carbon dioxide loving bacteria that could produce gasoline or ethanol and form a looped system to extend the use of the gasoline indefinitely. The system would in no way be "closed loop" because of heat loss in the engine (which means we wouldn't be able to do away with gas-stations entirely), but a perfected system like this would be a phenomenal step in the right direction.
Similar to this idea, researchers in Wales recently produced a "green-box" that works essential the same as what the Georgia Tech team is interested in except they combine genetically modified algae to the system in order to produce biofuels from the captured emissions. Both Georgia Tech and Wales are examples of awesome technology that could be a huge step forward (and would be a great complement to hybrid cars), but it's still way too early to tell how long it will be before the systems are economical and feasible.

Here is a diagram of what the Georgia Tech researchers envision:

Here is a link to a Reuter's site discussing the Welsh inventor's "green-box:"


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